May 26, 2022

A letter from 826CHI's Executive Director on Uvalde, TX Tragedy

Dear 826CHI Community,

We are devastated by the tragic loss of 21 lives in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX on Wednesday. We wish that we did not have to continually find ourselves in a state of devastation and heartbreak because more young lives have been lost due to gun violence, including most recently the life of young Chicagoan Seandell Holliday at the Chicago Bean. Children of Chicago and children of this country deserve to live long, full lives and to be safe in every part of their childhoods – physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is far too present that our children must fear for their lives en route to and within school walls. The greatest wishes that our students hold should not be that they live to see 18, 21, 25. They should be able to live out all their dreams, build the lives they wish to live, reach the moments of their accomplishments, and experience the expansiveness of the longest lives possible.  

Our hearts are with the parents, families, loved ones, and communities of Chicago and Robb Elementary and Uvalde, TX, and we know that this is not enough. Change and action are required of us to ensure that our children are provided with the brightest futures. 826CHI is a place where students can come to explore and play in their imaginations through the adventures of story making and storytelling. We need more safe spaces for young people to safely come together to learn, create, and socialize without fear of harm or criminalization.  

826CHI is also a space where when we say, “through the power of writing”, we mean the power within the written and oral voices of our students that they can build and employ to fight for change, to take and demand their rightful seats at the table, to advocate for their communities and schools; and for that power to work in tandem with the power they possess to speak up and speak out.  

This is also the deep work of 826CHI that we know is necessary to support students in both their successes and the quality of their lives of which they alone are the authors. This school year as part of the Young Author Book Project, 5grade students from Chiago Math and Science Academy in W. Rogers Park just explored what it can look like to build new, safer, and better worlds free from violence and oppression. In their publication Tomorrow’s Titans: Poetry to Grow a New Future, students explored and created new, better, and safer worlds. They followed their imaginations to form worlds on that page where the “troubles and oppressions of our current world are things of the past.”  


Abdulahi A., Grade 6

Time is officially over. We work on the other side of the time. On my planet, I am free from hate, negativity, and racism. On my planet, you get transported by teleportation. On my planet, your mind is scanned, only positive and kind mindsets are allowed. My planet has aliens, animals, humans, and other species. The sky is green. There is a different law system and a different society that is better. People aren’t harmed for things they didn’t do and also guns won’t be there. People won’t be so toxic. But that is all a dream. The world can't be as perfect as we want it to be. But all that we can do is do our part to help change it into what we want it to be, that is the reality.

As we move into a new program year, 826CHI remains committed to ensuring that every student is and feels safe when they walk into our writing lab. We will be reaching out to parents and educators to share current and new safety protocols for this upcoming year, and to learn what you need most to feel that students are safe in all forms while at 826CHI. Alongside our colleagues in education and our students, we will also remain advocates for investments in the development of more safe out-of-school time spaces for young people in Chicago.

We are here for our students and community. Below is a list of resources that support journaling through this time, engaging in conversation around gun violence and tragedy with your students, lesson plans from 826 Digital, and writing prompts from this year’s Young Author Book Project for students to envision a world in which they feel safe, connected, and themselves, as well as other community resources.

Jennifer Steele, 826CHI Executive Director

Navigating Difficult Conversations with Children and Young People

Self-Care for Teachers & Educators

Writing Prompts and Lessons for Journaling and Creative Expression

  • 826 Digital free lesson plans:
  • Our Values (Grade 6-9) Students will work in a collaborative, constructive setting to create a vision for your classroom as a safe space for students and teachers.
  • Change the Ending, Take Back Your Power (Grade 9-12) In this lesson, students explore the genres of historical and speculative fiction before they reimagine a time they felt powerless and write a different outcome.

Writing Prompts from and for Tomorrow’s Titans

How You Can Help Impact Change for Our Students

Sign a Petition:


  • GoFundMe has established an online hub of verified fundraisers supporting victims and loved ones affected by the shooting, which you can find here.
  • Those include a fundraiser organized by VictimsFirst (a network of survivors and relatives affected by previous mass shootings) to provide victims' family members with no-strings-attached cash payments.

Stay Informed About Gun Violence Prevention:

  • Sandy Hook Promise: Created by the family members of victims in Sandy Hook, this organization is accepting donations to prevent school shootings and gun violence.
  • Violence Policy Center: This nonprofit is committed to using a research-based approach to addressing gun violence in America and educating individuals about institutional structures that enable daily mass violence. They are continuing to accept donations during this time.
  • Everytown for Gun Safety: A movement of more than 8 million moms, mayors, survivors, students, and everyday Americans working to end gun violence. Donate now through May 31, and Mike Bloomberg will triple match your gift.